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TOPIC: "You'll never get rich with a movie theater"

"You'll never get rich with a movie theater" 08 Aug 2013 14:03 #40193

  • bpk
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As an aspiring theater owner (art house/draft house, small plates sort of stuff, two digital screens, two LCD), I often hear these statement. Just curious if this is true and why?
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"You'll never get rich with a movie theater" 08 Aug 2013 16:17 #40194

  • lionheart
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Most likley, it is a true statement.

Like so many businesses, three of the keys to success are location, location, location. I'm not just talking about which street or corner in town would be best. I'm also talking about which city or town, what are the demographics, etc. If the location and demographics look favorable to making a lot of money, then most likely a big chain will have already located there. If you open up a new market and start making a lot of money, don't expect to have it all to yourself for long.

I'm sure there are cases where a person can get rich running a movie theater, but it's just not a business that creates lots of rich independent owners. Expenses are high. Margins are thin. I'm not talking about the margin on popcorn or soda. I mean the margins on the business as a whole.

I know some people make a good living with their movie theaters, but if you are the little guy, don't expect to "get rich". Also, if you think art house fare will draw lots of customers, you will need to consider that art houses traditionally do maybe 10% the business that mainstream theaters do. So, you will need a location and demographics where 10% is enough.

I don't want to discourage anyone, but an aspiring owner needs to go into things with eyes open wide. Maybe the best reason to go into the movie exhibition business is not to become rich, but to pursue a career that you really enjoy. That way, even if you don't become rich, you will still have a fulfilling career.
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"You'll never get rich with a movie theater" 08 Aug 2013 18:53 #40196

  • Mike
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"some of you will never get rich with a movie theatre" might be a fairer statement. I don't know about rich but I know many people who have done well and some have done very well. Others, and many small town businesses fit this bill, are labors of love. But guess what: so are millions of other small businesses.

Let's turn it around a little: what small business will you get rich in? Convenience store opeartor, trucker, heavy equipment operator, fishing, and on and on. Book store, hardware store, gift shop, bar, fuel oil, appliance sales, restaurant, photographer?

Compared to all of those I'd rather own a movie theatre. Maybe a different one.... from time to time... but having Disney, Fox, Sony, and Universal and friends big and small working year round to put exclsive product on my screens? That is a great deal.

Long ago... when I chose to move to Belfast Maine (population 6600) getting rich was not on the "why I am moving here" list. I did not have a list. But Getting Rich has never been my goal in life in general so i don't lay awake at night beating myself up. I love the movie business. If I wanted to get rich in it I'd open my arms to the nation and look for an underserved market and build appropriately. And then I'd have a fighting chance. To make a good living and maybe get a little rich.

Lucky for me I struck gold when I found a home that I love. And that is wealth you cannot lose.
Michael Hurley
Impresario
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"You'll never get rich with a movie theater" 08 Aug 2013 19:37 #40197

  • revrobor
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Running a movie theatre is a labor of love. Yes, you'll never get rich but you should be able to live well especially if you book it for the community. Doing it that way one of the perks is the respect of the community and they'r belief it's "our theatre".
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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"You'll never get rich with a movie theater" 09 Aug 2013 02:35 #40200

  • Andrew Thomas
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I wouldn't get into any business with the expectation of getting rich. Honestly, the expectation of failing miserably is more likely in ANY business venture you might choose. But I have friends in the industry who take home $500,000 to $1,000,000 a year at this point as they have 3-5 cinemas and 20-30 screens. They didn't build it overnight and they didn't bring in that kind of cash when they opened their first cinema.

I would actually recommend looking for an area of the industry on the exhibitor side in which the product choices generally aren't good and create a better mousetrap, as it were. I know a couple of guys who financed their second or third cinemas doing that.
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"You'll never get rich with a movie theater" 10 Aug 2013 18:49 #40210

  • Ken Layton
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Tom Moyer got rich running theaters, lots of theaters!
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"You'll never get rich with a movie theater" 11 Aug 2013 14:05 #40213

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If it were easy, everyone would be doing. It's an expensive business to get into, and highly competitive. It helps to have a niche, such as with a drive-in theatre, or what The Alamo Drafthouse does, which are both very different from the standard cookie-cutter multiplex.

Rick
"As long as there are sunsets and stars at night, there will always be drive-in movies."
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"You'll never get rich with a movie theater" 12 Aug 2013 19:59 #40223

  • bpk
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Thanks everyone. Mike and Lionheart, as always great comments. Honestly, I already knew the answer before posting the question. In reality I was looking for what Lionheart mentioned - high expenses, low margins. Lucky for me I am not getting into this business to get rich. I have personal desire to see this business open and feel there is a strong need in the city. In addition to the four screens we will program with film, the facility will also have a large "multi- purpose" room that will allow for different styles of programming such as live events, streaming content from folks like Emerging Pictures, etc.

Some other comments/thoughts:

- I am in the real estate/construction business. This allows me to have a very flexible schedule. It also pays my bills, so any money the theater makes is bonus. Do you think it is plausible for me to assume I can hire someone to manage and run the theater while I am not always there? Obviously I will do a lot of the special programming, but I do plan to hire a booker. Other than that, where I live is crawling with life-long, service industry managers in need of employment.

- Any suggestions on how to bring down costs?

- As an owner, how much time do you spend in the theater (not just working the books)?

Thanks.
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"You'll never get rich with a movie theater" 12 Aug 2013 21:46 #40225

  • slapintheface
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I think everyone has a different definition of rich , that being said I have been very fortunate in this biz , I could safely say I make more than 80 % of my customers . And I don't live in a low income area ..
Like any business it's what you make of it .
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"You'll never get rich with a movie theater" 12 Aug 2013 21:56 #40226

  • slapintheface
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Also I would never use a film buyer that books mostly non - profits , that is a difference mind set and not always good for profit Theatres .
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"You'll never get rich with a movie theater" 14 Aug 2013 13:00 #40230

  • leeler
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we are by no means rich but we are comfortable and love doing what we do. We were NOT able to make a go of it with just our single screen but we weren't THAT far off and now, with our six screen we do pretty well for ourselves. Of course the workload has increased exponentially.......but that is a different question.
"What a crazy business"
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"You'll never get rich with a movie theater" 19 Aug 2013 02:35 #40240

  • JPRM
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Ahhhh...very good question, and lots of good responses, too. I think - as with any business - y'all have to start by asking yourself two questions. First, is there TRULY a market for what you want to offer. (If you only wish there were a market for it, that's a bad sign.) And second, is the market already being served by someone else.

Regarding the 'wish there were a market' note, I looked at a theatre in my area in which the landlord had involved a lot of folks from the community. They all felt strongly that it should be an art house, which I didn't think suited the location. The theatre went to someone else, it's heavy on the art/rep bookings, and I know that it's struggled. I ended up with a theatre that was as good as dead, and it's been great. My place has just one screen, and I don't expect to get rich from it, but it's sustained itself pretty well in the year since I got it.

Of course, if you want to talk about being 'rich in love,' you'll get that in a big way. Especially if you bring back a theatre that people grew up with.
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